TO MARSHALL HENDERSON'S 11-YEAR-OLD BROTHER

Michael Sam at Missouri.

People deserve to get a future.

1.) Hi! I hope you are enjoying being 11.

2.) If you are 11 years old, that means you were born the year the United States went to war in Iraq, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on national television, a man went on a shooting rampage at a Lockheed Martin facility in Mississippi and killed six people, and Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl. All of these events were arguably more controversial and/or disturbing than a man kissing his partner on national television.

3.) Marriage equality passed in Massachusetts the year you were born. Gay people have been getting married and presumably making out and smearing cake on one another's faces for your entire life.

4.) I turned 11 years old in September of 1998. Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and left to die the following month. Ellen Degeneres lost her television show earlier that year. That was what it meant to be gay in 1998 for an 11-year-old.

5.) I am gay.

6.) I knew I was gay when I was 11. My mom told me she hoped I wasn't. I tried, Mom. I tried.

7.) You have, most likely, seen some seriously awful things on television. You may have seen someone die on live television during a car chase. You may have seen the footage of what happened at Sandy Hook. You may have seen episodes of television shows in which people do really, really, really terrible things to one another (but it's filmed super well and everyone has great accents, so it's cool).  I'm really, really sorry you may have seen that.

8.) Apparently, you were watching the seventh round of the NFL draft with your older brother, and you saw Michael Sam react to getting drafted by the St. Louis Rams like anyone would - with complete hysterical joy and by kissing the person he loves. Your older brother seems to have a problem with that and found it to be "sickening."

9.) When I was 11 years old, I would have given up having my own room to see a Michael Sam happily kiss his boyfriend on national television. I thought my life as a gay person would end in fear or pain or loneliness. The sense of possibility that every kid should have - the idea that you could be or do anything, as long as you tried hard enough - didn't exist for gay kids like me in 1998. I didn't know any gay adults. I didn't have any gay role models. I felt that the only solutions were to either make myself straight or end my own life. I tried both.

10.) Notably, neither solution worked.

11.) Gay people, and bisexual people, and trans people are around you. You probably know some, or you will. They are, right now, living their lives. They are going to work or going to school or procrastinating on going to work or school by watching The Doctors. They are falling in love, or falling out of love, or having a very confusing relationship with someone that seems to take place only in text messages you need the actual Rosetta Stone to translate. They might even be kissing.

12.) Some people have a problem with that, like your brother. And that's okay. He's got the right to think what he wants, even if that thought is incredibly, mindbogglingly stupid.

13.) But saying that two men kissing is an issue because you, an 11-year-old saw it, is insulting. It's insulting to you and your intelligence, and its insulting to the thousands of 11-year-old gay kids who are having the same sense of overwhelming recognition followed by terror that I had, realizing that your life isn't going to work the way your family or your church or your society said it was supposed to. Those kids deserve to see a future for themselves, just like you do.

14.) I wish you, and every 11-year-old, the absolute best in life. But be good to those other 11-year-olds, the ones more like you and the ones more like Michael Sam.

Thanks,

Jane

15.) Please explain to me why Dog with a Blog is not the #1 show in America.

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